Full of sound and fury

Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

I found a love for Shakespeare’s words early. Long before my high school classes read, studied, and discussed Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and Macbeth, I read the Bard’s work on my own.

I unearthed my mother’s old high school literature books and thus found delight in many of the classic bits of literature on both sides of the pond. By junior high I was checking out individual volumes of Shakespeare’s plays from the library and one Christmas, I asked for and received The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

In one of my earliest novels, Love Tattoo (book one of the Love Covenant series) Will Brennan quotes Shakespeare often even though the undead vampire born in 1751 came along long after the Bard’s heyday.

I have been known to quote a bit of Shakespeare here and there including one of my favorites from Act 5, Scene 5 of the Scottish play that includes the line “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. In fact, one of my columns last summer included the full quote.

Those lines made headlines this past week after Senator Ted Cruz used them to reference the ongoing impeachment trial of former President Trump.

No sooner had he been quoted however than Andrea Mitchell, attempted to correct him, stating that the quote came from a different William – Faulkner, not Shakespeare.  In doing so, she brought to mind another quote from 18th century English writer, Samuel Johnson, who once wrote, “Sir, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Mitchell may have meant well – but she was wrong. Faulkner, of course, borrowed the title of his novel The Sound and The Fury from Shakespeare. Mitchell soon admitted her error and apologized for it but the fact it happened at all remains. I would have hoped for better from a journalist with a long career with major news outlets.

My preoccupation with the situation isn’t partisan – it’s literary.

More and more, we seem to become a society of ignorance and not only that, of unbridled rude behavior. Had Mitchell bothered to check the quote before she commented, she could have saved some face and prevented a tempest in a teapot (yet another Shakespeare quote).

Every day I see self-proclaimed pundits who share their thoughts and opinions to the world via social media and the internet – with no concern whether they are correct or not.  To voice a simple opinion about a cooking technique or a brand preference can lead to verbal battle online.

Two characters best known for misspeaking often come to mind – Mrs. Malaprop from Sheridan’s 1775 play, The Rivals, and the more recent Miss Emily Litella portrayed by the late Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Life. Both characters got laughs from using words or phrases in an incorrect way.

Unfortunately, these days we’ve moved from that being humorous to a daily occurrence.

It takes a short time to confirm a quote or a source -or debunk it - in just a few key clicks.

I do it – both in my prose and in my online postings.  I’ve been known to point out to others that something they posted in good faith, that they took to be true, often isn’t. Sometimes they appreciate it, often they don’t. On occasion, they choose to not believe irrefutable evidence to the contrary of what they shared.

Too many things today are indeed full of sound and fury – and too many also signify nothing. To add one more quote, this from Robert Ripley, believe it or not but take the time to check before you speak or share.

-Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is a freelance writer and author who lives in Neosho, MO